Throughout my life I’ve been very blessed. I have a safe and stable home environment and a healthy body and mind. My greatest struggles have not come from external circumstances, but from within myself.
I was in the fourth grade when I recall thinking of myself as fat. I remember crying in my mother’s arms one night, telling her I felt “chubby”. Throughout the next three years, my weight and appearance became more and more of a focus in my daily life and by grade seven, all I could think about was food. I was never overweight, but I could not understand why I did not carry the wispy look, like so many other girls in my class; I ran Cross Country every year, played basketball, and ate relatively healthy meals. The first time I skipped lunch was also the first day of Cross Country practice that year. Eventually I began skipping breakfast as well, and reducing my dinner portions. My mother was the first to notice the way my jeans had begun to drape on my hips and she told me I looked great! My neighbours and relatives said the same thing. I had never felt more beautiful. When Cross Country season ended and basketball season began, I found myself craving food more intensely. I created a routine. I would binge eat once a week and then go without food the remaining six days to compensate for the amount I had eaten. It was my ultimate goal to be less than 100 pounds, but I am now grateful that I did not reach my goal.
I felt sick all the time, developed constant headaches, and could never sleep well. I had frequent nightmares. I couldn’t understand why I felt so depleted when I had only lost 15 pounds. Eventually I had a breakdown and began eating all meals again, but even then, I was constantly nervous or on the verge of tears. I hated eating in front of people, and I gained back all the weight I had lost and more. I felt worse than ever, physically and mentally and I tired quickly. But in spite of all of this, my grades did not fall; I was determined to at least seem intelligent. My self worth plummeted and I allowed people to take advantage of me. This internal struggle shattered my late elementary years and has continued to shape my journey through my teens.
I am in a much better place now. I am at a healthy weight, I eat well and I am active, but I still have some body image problems. I attribute my current anxiety and tendency to “stress eat” to my original experience with anxiety being at a time when I denied myself food. I am still trying to detach my self worth from my weight as well as my academic performance, which I thought of as my only source of value after my obsession with food sapped every interesting trait I had to offer. This greatly influences my perception and involvement in relationships, both physical and romantic. I work hard to be healthy both physically and mentally. I have been working on my anxiety with a social worker for a year and have made unbelievable progress. I hope to continue this progress and to carry my experience with me when I become a mother, to help my children love themselves. I also want to raise awareness of the importance of mental health support in elementary schools, when many girls begin to struggle with body image. I am now working on deconstructing the misogyny I have internalized throughout my years of pitting myself against other girls, for no reason other than existing in a body thinner than mine. My “food issues” still hold me back, but they have also propelled me to learn about myself and empathize more fully with other girls. I am on a journey toward self-love, propelling every step I take with the lessons I have learned since my past struggles.